Saintly City cat show inspires kitty fawning, unity

JAY BOLLER | Updated 1/29/2013

An influx of hipsters found common ground with traditional cat-show types.

In the age of the YouTube celebrity cat, it seems hipsters – in earnest or otherwise – have woven themselves into the fabric of kitty culture.

At least that was the vibe at the Saintly City Cat Club Championship Cat Show last weekend at the Saint Paul RiverCenter. The 37th annual competition was abuzz with whisker worshiping, be it from aunt- and uncle-types or the tatted- and tight-panted sect.

“The spectators at this show, you can’t compare,” said South Dakotan Kristen Wiley, beaming over her four-ribbon winner ragamuffin kitten, Dizzy. “YouTube has helped. It brings a lot of people in.”

Vendors hoped to score some scratch from that boom of show goers, as the convention center floor was framed with kitty capitalists. Among the wares: Signs that read “Feline Groovie” and “Cats Rule Dogs Drool,” pet photography and cremation services, plus loads of cat-centric clothing.

Jon Brubacher, however, isn’t in it for the money. As he prepped his prized birman Jasmine for the judges, the Wisconsin-based cat shower explained how he got in the game. 

“Remember the [TV ad] where these cowboys are herding the cats on the open range?,” he asked. “My wife goes: That’s what I wanna be. I want to be a cat rancher - I’d like to raise a purebred cat. So then we started with the cat shows.”

Brubacher, a fifth year cat shower, said there’s a healthy amount of competition at the shows, but diva owners are a rarity.

“Most of us all have a little ego,” he admitted. “So when people think our kitties are beautiful, we’re all tickled pink.”

The most-tickled owner at Sunday’s show had to be Donna Zimmerman, whose cats James and Maggie May were crowned 2013 Household Pet King and Queen. Following a bizarre ceremony by the St. Paul Winter Carnival Royal Family, the Greenwood, Ind. resident was raw emotion.

“I’m kind of numb at the moment – ‘cause I’ve never had anything like this before!,” the owner of 15 rescue cats (including the King and Queen) said. “I just started showing cats about a year ago!”

It didn’t matter that Queen Maggie May took a hissing swipe at her King seconds later, because in that moment of feline felicity, attendees were aglow for Zimmerman and her robe/crown-sporting cats. The motives of the hefty hipster contingent present at Saintly City may have been suspect. But the weight of Zimmerman’s triumphant win inspired earnestness in all, and drove home a deeply human truth: People sure do like cute kitties.